HomeSouthern VoiceTwo poems by Terri Kirby Erickson

Two poems by Terri Kirby Erickson

Night Fishing on Long Beach Pier

Without the loud whoops of children, 

their feet pounding the floorboards as

they ran, or the incessant cries of hungry

gulls, what we heard was water sloshing

around the pilings, the hushed voice of

our mother saying, soon, soon, we’ll go

home soon, as we leaned against her soft

shoulders beneath the green glow of old

fluorescent lights and stars that looked

like tiny tears in the night’s dark fabric.

Our father was just a silhouette slouched

against the knife-marked, shrimp-husk-

littered railing, his fishing rod bowed

and gently bobbing as invisible waves

rolled into the shore. A few miles down

the beach, the incoming tide was busy 

washing away the sandcastle my brother

and I built in front of the rented cottage 

where our grandmother, worn out from

surf fishing since dawn, was sleeping. It 

was hours past our bedtime, so our eye-

lids—my brother’s and mine—fluttered 

like the wings of Luna moths against our 

smooth, sunburned cheeks as the night 

air ran its salty fingers through our hair.

Still, our father fished on and on. To reel 

in his hooks meant some legendary fish 

might clamp its jaws around someone 

else’s bait. But perhaps it was the sight 

of his young family huddled on that slim 

wooden bench—his wife’s face glowing 

like a moon-lit slipper shell, his children’s 

nodding heads as we struggled to stay 

awake—that kept him from packing up 

his gear. Maybe he didn’t want it to end, 

this feeling he couldn’t name, so fleeting 

it was almost gone, already, and nothing 

anyone can do or say will bring it back.


For Felicia

Stunned by an unforgiving 

pane of glass, a finch 

fell to the ground 

like a splash of pale 

yellow paint. It sat 

shivering in the snow, 

its heartbeat faster 

than a spinning bobbin 

in the aftermath of such 

a killing blow. Yet, 

this little bird’s thimble-

full of life held fast 

to its fragile body, 

and was soon cradled 

by a loving human hand. 

There, with splayed 

feathers stroked smooth, 

belly warmed by 

a kind woman’s skin, 

the goldfinch rallied. 

It spread its gilded wings 

and flew to a snow-

laden branch, forgetting 

before it got there, 

the sky’s unyielding 

reflection—then flew 

again—a bird-shaped 

star with billions 

of years left to burn.

North Carolina native Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of the 2021 International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry ReviewAtlanta ReviewJAMAPoet’s MarketSport LiteratestorySouthThe Christian CenturyThe Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2019The SunThe Writer’s AlmanacValparaiso Poetry ReviewVerse Daily and many more. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. Read her previous poems in Deep South here.

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